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A Church of England Ordination: part two, the good news?

Indeed it surely does not need to be like this. Surely something more creative and real could be devised? Let me dream a little.

[1] The 24 tasks in the ordination liturgy together make up a fine statement of what the aims of the Christian Church should be. Why not reframe the language to make it clear that these are the tasks of the whole Church ?

[2] Why not make it plain that this is so by setting the ordination of priests and deacons alongside the licensing of other Church workers, and the confirming and baptism of lay members, in one service? Maybe each Anglican Deanery should have an annual service at which all new clergy, lay workers, and confirmation candidates to be authorised to serve in that Deanery are welcomed and have hands laid upon them. Make sure there is at least one baptism too to complete the cycle.

[3] Why not have a section of the liturgy in which Bishops, Archdeacons and other diocesan officers commit themselves to the resourcing God’s people for these tasks, and accept responsibility for so doing.

[4] Why not have a penitential section in which the Church recognises that while its record over the centuries has been quite good with respect to some of these tasks, in others it has failed miserably, and needs to confess its failings and seek God’s forgiveness?

[5] Why not name that the Church is not the only instrument that God has called to address these tasks, and those being authorised to act in the Church’s name will find themselves working alongside people of other faiths and none who are equally agents of God’s grace and should be treated respectfully and in a spirit of mutual co-operation.

A service along these lines feels to me to be much more in touch with current realities. It links the authorising of the whole of God’s people with a vision of the task to which they are collectively called, and the bigger picture of God’s work in the world of which the Church is but a part. It would not surprise me if people attending such a service with no great Christian commitment might feel called by God to join in this visionary activity; and others already caught by the vision might feel affirmed and encouraged.


  1. Sirkka-Liisa Raunio

    You have wonderful ideas to nourish ordinationmasses, Henry! There´s life in these visions!

    • Rev Mike Catling

      I am one of the ‘elite super-Christians’ who has been ordained for 25 years and exercise a ministry that in turn is exhilarating and exhausting and carries both a sense of joy and privilege as well as despair and guilt. The 24 items of ‘priestly success’ can, in a number of places, dovetail into each other probably reducing the list by half. However, it seems that only one of the 24 addresses the well-being of the priest and that is number 17. The need for the priest to spend time not in intercessory prayer but contemplative prayer, silence and solitude. Where in the other 23 items is there a call for the priest to set time apart for him or herself, simply to be in the presence of God?
      The spirit of Ephesians 4:1-16 seems to be totally lacking too and instead all but one of these 24 exaltations creates an ‘us’ and ‘them’ process mentality. ‘Us’, being the clergy, appear to be the many gifted ones and ‘them’ are, at best, the one gifted many who need to be led like helpless sheep. In reality, of course, this is often far from the truth. The lay folk across my 9 churches and their communities are amazingly committed folk even if they don’t come to services every Sunday. Yet they do care about their church buildings and those who live in their community.
      Here in this list of 24 the priest is told what s/he must do in order to be a ‘good’ minister or to put it in ghastly management-speak, ‘what is best practice.’ Ephesians 4:15-16 reminds the Church that ‘we must grow up in every way into . . . Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.’ For me, the priest is more often acting as a ligament and that is no bad thing!
      There is indeed no mention of the hidden tasks of modern day priestly ministry – administration (of in particular multi-church parishes or benefices), declining and aging attendance, meeting the parish share and keeping ancient buildings fit for use. Yet these too are the tasks of the whole Church and not simply the burden to be carried by the priest and a few committed parishioners.
      Your suggestion Henry of an annual deanery service where all ministries are recognized and renewed is a good one and the logistics of such services could be worked out if the will is there.
      Our rural diocese of Hereford currently has something like 11 vacancies for parish priests, so I wonder what is causing this gap when the number of Bishops Advisory Panels per year seeking to discern vocations to ministry has increased in recent years?

  2. keith lowe

    Creative, relevant and practical as I would expect of you Henry. I must therefore assume very slow adoption by the mighty tortoise – if any. But hope springs maternal – there must be some good issue out of this long painful Anglican travail

  3. Ruth Yeoman

    Dear Henry,

    Thank you for your reflections on ordination services.
    Our episcopal area (Bradford) is taking two years to look and see whether we can create a deanery structure that will serve the ministry we seek to offer and the people God is calling us to be. I really warm to many of your suggestions and will see how I can reflect on them further and where I might feed them into ongoing discussion!

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